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WAYNESBURG - The Waynesburg Police Department recently became the first law enforcement agency in Ohio to register on the newly launched website BodyCameraDonations.com.
Police Chief William Bath recently registered the department on the site.
Efforts like BodyCameraDonations.com are among the newest trends for smaller village and town police departments in remote areas that need body cameras but can't get funding through grants or other means. This website facilitates community donations of body cameras to departments that need them.
Bath said with the way crime is evolving in the county, he believes the department needs a way to back up its officers and reduce complaints.
"We're not able to fund a body camera system ourselves, so registering on BodyCameraDonations.com is a way for us to be able to get body cameras," he said.
Bath added that body cameras are great video evidence gathering tools and they have been proven to decrease complaints.
The department is hoping to get donations for 12 law enforcement-quality police body cameras.
As Bath pointed out, the primary road block for departments like Waynesburg in obtaining body cameras is cost.
Police body cameras are in high demand with all of the national news coverage about police involved incidents in the news lately. A lot of news focus is on the bigger departments that have received federal grants for this technology, but no one is focusing on the smaller village and town police departments in remote areas that don't have the budget for this technology and all of the costs associated with it.
Body cameras are also a community safety story as well. They have been proven to reduce officer complaints and litigation against departments, so they are a worthy investment that will save valuable community funds.
Are there any situations where having body camera video evidence would have made a difference in court cases or complaints against your officers?
Bath pointed out that when police officers leave their vehicles and get out of range of the cruiser cameras, it doesn't capture what happens.
"A lot of time all you get is audio of an incident and that opens the door to speculation," he said. "When you have video evidence that travels with you and captures the officer's point of view, it decreases the speculation and 'Monday morning quarterbacking.'"
Bath added that body cameras decrease the amount of interpretation in circumstances. "You have video to back up exactly what happened," he said.
Bath added that his department doesn't have any guidelines for a body camera policy, but he is working with the basic state policy.
"We would tailor it more to our department," he added. "The Ohio Police Officer Training Academy put out a basic policy for police departments to adopt and tweak as they need it for their departments."
In Columbus, an Ohio House committee is debating a bipartisan bill requiring law enforcement agencies to have rules governing the use of body cameras.
Bath is a step ahead as lawmakers consider a proposal that would require departments to have policies in place for body cameras if they do have them.
The legislation is from Reps. Kevin Boyce, a Columbus Democrat, and Cheryl Grossman, a Grove City Republican.
The bill in the House Local Government Committee on April 20 also says such policies should be made public
The legislation doesn't provide specific recommendations about when the cameras should be on or who should wear them, but says the policy should include those details.
Departments also find that cameras help with transparency and keeping both officers and the public better behaved because they know their actions are being recorded.
The cameras often protect officers and the people they serve by recording the truth behind events. It is widely believed that the use of body cameras can prevent situations that threaten the peace in the community like the Ferguson, Mo., protests by capturing video evidence of police interactions with the public.
The website has an exclusive discount offer with Wolfcom, a leading manufacturer of police body cameras in the U.S. over the last five years.
Each body camera costs $275, plus shipping.
The Wolfcom Vision is a high-quality body camera that offers the security features and required specifications to meet law enforcement grade requirements. Its light weight, durability and quality make it highly favored by law enforcement agencies.
Wolfcom's cameras are used by more than 450 police departments across the United States.
There also are no hidden fees or costs. Because of BodyCameraDonations.com's partnership with Wolfcom, 100 percent of donations go towards body cameras for the registered law enforcement agencies.